The new assessment of Finland’s threatened habitat types was a major effort for the science community

Press release 2018-12-18 at 9:22
Perinnelaidun
© Photo: Antti Below, Finnish Environmental Administration's Image Bank

The assessment of threatened habitat types in Finland, published on 18 December, is a complete description of the current state of all habitat types found in Finland, from the Baltic Sea all the way to the fell area. Even globally, the new “Red List” is exceptionally comprehensive and thorough.

The book includes assessments of almost 400 habitats types found in Finland. They were divided into eight main groups: the Baltic Sea, the coast, inland waters and shores, mires, forests, rock outcrops and scree, traditional rural biotopes and the fell area.

The key finding of the assessment was that about half (48%) of our natural habitats are threatened in the whole country, and in Southern Finland the share of threatened habitats is even higher. After the previous assessment that was conducted 10 years ago, as a whole, the deteriorating trend of habitats has continued.

The assessment was implemented as a three-year project funded by the Ministry of the Environment and coordinated by the Finnish Environment Institute. The assessment was conducted by expert groups that consisted of over 120 specialists from various Finnish universities, research institutes and expert organisations representing key fields with a view to the topic. The material covered was vast: for example, the amount of sea habitat types examined was tenfold compared to the assessment conducted in 2008.

The assessment method applied was the scientifically valid Red List Criteria for Ecosystems (RLE) developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The previous assessment in 2008 was conducted applying a nationally developed method, and the new assessment is also based on the same main elements – categorization according to the quantitative and qualitative changes of the habitat. However, the new assessment is more comprehensive, reliable and internationally comparable than the previous one. Due to the differences in methodology, the new results cannot be directly compared to the national assessment of 2008, but the changes and trends can be identified.

Based on the results, Finland will not reach its target of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2020. However, the state of habitats can be improved, and research information plays an important role in the process.

“Assessments of threatened habitat types are among the most important indicators that can be used in the monitoring of biodiversity. The results of this expert assessment are alarming. We need to work more actively and with a broad scope to strengthen biodiversity. The proposals given by the expert group provide comprehensive views for identifying and targeting future conservation needs,” says Minister of Housing, Energy and the Environment Kimmo Tiilikainen.

Finland is one of the first countries in the world to have completed such a comprehensive assessment using the IUCN method. This gives Finland an opportunity to influence the development of the method and to participate in the debate on global solutions for nature conservation.

The information gathered will be put to immediate use in Finland, for instance, in the Habitats Directive reporting in spring 2019, and in the upcoming updates of the national action plans related to the improvement of the state of biological diversity and Finland's international commitments. In the future, the results will also serve various administrative sectors and research by means of such data as new spatial information materials.

Finland is currently conducting an extensive project assessing threatened species, which is being implemented using the established methodology developed by IUCN for assessing the state of species. The red list of Finnish species will be published at the beginning of 2019.

Inquiries:

Aulikki Alanen, senior environmental adviser, tel. +358 295 250 333, firstname.lastname@ym.fi